Of Exotic Ukrainian Cities And Marley Purt Drive

Many years ago, when I first became aware of this “pop music” thing as a naive youngster, disco was on top and the Bee Gees were the king of the musical scene. Thanks to a cousin of mine, I became aware of the Bee Gees 60s Beatles-esque pop roots, which seemed a million miles away from the helium sound of Stayin’ Alive et. al (deep historical retrospect may indicate that the distance wasn’t so great…). Anyway, this was my first real exposure and interest in 60s music, and I remember gazing longingly in record shops at one of their earlier albums in a velvet red sleeve and the title of an exotic city in Ukraine.

It was many years later (in 2000) that I actually bought and heard this album (I know a few songs from other compilations). By then, I was aware of its reputation as a bit of a cult album, with a wide variety of styles, constructed in with the intention of a tight concept album, but which became a fairly loose collection of high-quality pop songs, similar to  Sgt. Pepper. (it was originally released as a double album).  And so we have Odessa, the second of our 3 Os of late 60s albums in the Pepper spirit.

As with so many notable albums, the album was created during a period of some turmoil in the band, and indeed, Robin Gibb, left in the midst of making the album. There is a wide variety of styles, although a baroque and sometimes sentimental pop seems to dominate. The title track is as epic as a 7 minute song dedicated to a city on the Black Sea is likely to be, but it is engaging and sticks in your mind. There are some pretty tunes throughout, Sound Of Love and I Laugh In Your Face being two of the most notable.

There is a bit of a country influence- the catchy Give Your Best is one of the strongest, Marley Purt Drive one of the odder. Then you have some big band instrumentals such as The British Opera where there is a definite attempt to fuse pop and classical. Finally, there are the classic Bee Gees tunes which you may, First Of May and Melody Fair- the former may be sentimental, but it is a deeply affecting love song.

It doesn’t always work -sometimes the sprawling sounds jar, but there are some magic moments- maybe a bit like the real city, Odessa? However, this is another one highly recommended for the 60s music collector and should interest Brian Wilson/Beach Boys fans -after all, the Bee Gees were also a family band. Availability looks a bit short at the moment, with only expensive second hand copies available on Amazon -hopefully will be a re-release soon.

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